Simple, exquisitely prepared French bistro fare is the hallmark of Pascal Sauton's cozy establishment, parked in a garage across the street from the Keller Auditorium. A diverse menu accommodates diners with a wide variety of agendas and budgets, from the early-evening show-goers wanting to grab a quick plate of briny-sweet Dungeness crab salad in a cool tomato soup to those who want to linger over a piece of perfectly seared albacore atop a stew of tomatoes and wax beans. Economics have forced the restaurant to up the price of its famous three-course prix fixe menu to $25, but it still remains an outrageous bargain. Warmer evenings allow for sidewalk dining, and while the corner of Southwest 3rd Avenue and Market Street may not be the Champs-Élysées, it certainly lends atmosphere. With an extensive wine list, a bar pouring creative cocktails and a genuinely engaged staff, Carafe remains the most accessible and authentic French dining experience in town.

IDEAL MEAL: Roasted beet salad, bifsteak frites, a quarter carafe of French merlot.